“A nuclear weaponised Iran destabilises the region, prompts a regional arms race, and wastes the scarce resources in the region.”
Who do you think might have written this sentence? Chances are very few people around the world would know, or would now believe that the person who wrote this sentence is none other than the current president-elect of the Islamic Republic, Mr. Hassan Rouhani.
The next question is even more intriguing. When would you guess Mr. Rouhani wrote this sentence? Check the live link above: It was published on Tuesday 9 May 2006, exactly seven years before he was elected the president of the Islamic republic by a landslide.
Now – where do you think he published this essay, and in what language – in Persian in some obscure venue in Iran, perhaps? No – check the link again. It was written and published in English in Time Magazine, right under the nose of George W. Bush during the second term of his presidency. In the words of my Columbia University colleague, Gary Sick, who had recently dug this article out and posted it on his Facebook: “The US turned it down.”
Now do please read the rest of the article, composed in English by President-elect Rouhani himself and published in a US venue. In it you read an extended argument why the development of a nuclear weapon is not in the best interest of Iran. “Taking account of US nuclear arsenal and its policy of ensuring a strategic edge for Israel,” Rouhani continues, “an Iranian bomb will accord Iran no security dividends. There are also some Islamic and developmental reasons why Iran as an Islamic and developing state must not develop and use weapons of mass destruction.”
Rouhani insists “a negotiated solution still can and must be found if we intend to strengthen the non-proliferation regime and avoid an unwise and unnecessary conflict”. And he concludes by saying: “In my personal judgment, a negotiated solution can be found in the context of the following steps, if and when creatively intertwined and negotiated in good faith by concerned officials.”
You can now read the steps: he commits Iran to specific measures to assure the world, including the US (read Israel) of the transparency of its commitment to nonproliferation, and then concludes: ” It is not Iran’s intention to disregard Security Council decisions. The way out is for the Security Council to mandate the IAEA to address this issue and establish a negotiating process for a fixed period to formulate a credible plan taking into account the suggestions I made in my personal capacity.” Now what exactly is his personal capacity? This is how he signs his name: “Hassan Rouhani is representative of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, on the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator.”
Fabricating an ‘Iran nuclear crisis’
In December 2006, seven months after this article was published, the UN Security Council “unanimously approved sanctions intended to curb Iran’s nuclear program.” (See the New York Times “timeline of Iran’s Nuclear Program” here ).
The crescendo of events after this 2006 article is mind boggling. According to the New York Times, in 2008, “President George W. Bush rejects a secret request by Israel for specialised bunker-busting bombs it wants for an attack on Iran’s nuclear program. The Bush administration is alarmed by the Israeli idea to fly over Iraq to reach Iran’s major nuclear complex at Natanz and decides to step up intelligence-sharing with Israel and brief Israeli officials on new American efforts to subtly sabotage Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Mr. Bush will hand off the major covert program to President Obama.” And then after that “The United States works with Israel to begin cyberattacks, code-named Olympic Games, on computer systems at the Natanz plant. A year later, the program is introduced undetected into a controller computer at Natanz. Centrifuges begin crashing and engineers have no clue that the plant is under attack.”
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The following year in 2008, “International talks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions end in deadlock.” And then in September 2009, we learn that ” American, British and French officials declassify some of their most closely held intelligence and describe a multiyear Iranian effort, tracked by spies and satellites, to build a secret uranium enrichment plant deep inside a mountain.” In January 2010, we learn that “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warns in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability.”
By February 2010 we are told, “The United Nations’ nuclear inspectors declare for the first time that they have extensive evidence of ‘past or current undisclosed activities’ by Iran’s military to develop a nuclear warhead.” By summer 2010, Obama administration and the Israelis are conducting cyberattacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and destroying their centrifuges. By June of that year, US impose more sanctions on Iran. By the fall of that year, two Iranian nuclear scientists are targeted for assassination, while US and Europe expand their sanctions on Iran. In January 2012 yet another Iranian nuclear scientist is targeted for assassination. By May negotiations are not getting anywhere and by July “a European Union embargo on Iranian oil takes effect, playing a large role in severely restricting Iran’s ability to sell its most important export.” And by September 2012 Netanyahu brings his Mickey Mouse chart to the UN, as Iranians continues to suffer under economic sanctions, which the US bolsters early in 2013—by April, “Israeli officials stress readiness for lone strikes on Iran.” By May and then again June even more US sanctions are imposed.
The three-ring circus
Iranians are not entirely innocent in this senseless escalation, nor can we read Rouhani’s article just on its face value. It takes two to tango and the ruling regime in Iran is integral to the prolongation of the manufactured crisis. Today in the aftermath of the June 2013 and Rouhani’s landslide victory we might be reading his statement far more sympathetically than it was intended six years ago. I am no diplomat, and I am the last person to quote the late President Reagan sympathetically, but did he not once said of his negotiations with Gorbachev, “trust but verify?”
Under Ahmadinejad’s administration, especially over the last four years and in the aftermath of the brutal crackdown of the Green Movement, and the subsequent rise of the Arab Spring, Iranians have been negotiating from a position of internal insecurity, regional turmoil, and fearful distrust of the US/Israel intentions. In his own book in Persian, Amniyat-e Melli va Diplomasi-ye Hasteh’i/National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy (1390/2011), Rouhani blames the US belligerence, the European weakness, and also internal Iranian forces who did not wish for these negotiations to succeed.
But the chief culprit in this current crisis, other than the failure of first Bush and then Obama administration to take seriously President-elect Rouhani’s proposal back in 2006, is the Israeli and pro-Israeli American propaganda machinery. Ahmadinejad has more than his share of blame by his incendiary remarks and belligerent disposition. But his eight years of catastrophic administration was a godsend for Israel to demonise an entire country and try to instigate the US to attack Iran.
Now Netanyahu is in deep trouble – as the author of that outline of a solution for the nuclear issue, however we may discount its intentions, is now the Iranian president. What did Netanyahu think when Rouhani was elected president?
“In Israel, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was sceptical that Mr Rouhani’s success would bring change. “Let us not delude ourselves,” he said. “The international community must not be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear [programme].”
And of course before you knew it, his henchmen were out launching their smear campaign against Rouhani before he had even taken office. “‘There’s a sucker born every minute” is one of those great American phrases, fondly and frequently repeated by Americans, who tend to forget that it was said mainly about Americans.” This bit of supercilious snickering is by Bret Stephens of Wall Street Journal , in a piece sarcastically called “A ‘Pragmatic’ Mullah” accusing anyone remotely sympathetic or hopeful in Rouhani’s election of self-delusional naivete, which means the unsurpassed chutzpa of including 18 million Iranians who voted for him.
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To try in vain to hide their daily, systematic, uninterrupted stealing more and more of Palestine, Israelis will do anything, fabricate any lie, murder any number of Palestinians, pick up fight with any country, call anyone who catches them red-handed “anti-Semite,” and have been itching to push the US to commit the unsurpassed stupidity of attacking Iran, ordering their stooges in the US Congress to pass one resolution after another to force US to commit to go to war with Iran if Israel starts the war.
The Iranian nuclear crisis is no crisis at all. It is a fabricated issue, a red herring, instigated by Israel and its Zionist propagandists in US and Europe to distract attention from their systematic thievery of Palestine. Even if Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, and there is absolutely not a shred of evidence to that effect, Israel is the last entity on planet earth to point a finger at Iran. The only sensible and meaningful solution to the horror of nuclear weapons is a regional and in fact global dismantling of all these WMDs. Not only Iran should not have any nuclear warhead nor should Israel, or Pakistan, or Russia, China, and above all the only country that has actually used it once the United States.
If the “Iranian nuclear crisis” is a red herring, as I propose it is, then what is the issue? Here is the issue: The US/Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and their more minor allies on one side, with China, Russia, and Iran on the other are vying for power in the midst of the revolutionary conditions that will ultimately endanger all their short term interests. Syria and Syrian people today are the victim of this proxy war between all these unsavoury forces. With the mandate handed him by a massive landslide, will Rouhani decouple Iranian real “national security” interests from this ghastly game and rely on the will of his people to live in peace and with dignity in the world? He has the hopes and aspirations of his people if he were ever to muster the courage to do so.
We who care for the results of these world historic revolutions around the region and indeed around the world – all as the extended logic of the Palestinian Intifada – should never divert our eyes off the ball – in Taksim, or Tahrir, or Azadi, or anywhere else for that matter, from Zuccotti Park in New York to the wide and inviting boulevards of Rio de Janeiro.
Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. Among his most recent books is The World of Persian Literary Humanism (2012).